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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Budget Deal Struck In Time To Avert Washington Shutdown

Christina Salerno

The Washington legislature hopes to deliver a budget to Governor Jay Inslee by the end of business Friday. This after the House and Senate reached a handshake deal on a $33.6 billion state budget for the next two years. The agreement – after weeks of negotiations – should avert a government shutdown on Monday.

The official announcement came from Governor Inslee who was flanked by legislative leaders. “We are happy," he said. "And I know we are all relieved, to report to you that lawmakers have reached agreement on an operating budget for the next biennium.”

Inslee emphasized and re-emphasized this means state government will not shut down after this weekend – the end of the fiscal year, saying “Government operations will not be interrupted.”

That’s good news for state employees, those who rely on state services and Fourth of July vacationers with plans to celebrate at State Parks.

Details of the budget deal have been slow to emerge, but these are the basics:

Public schools will get $1 billion more. That’s a down payment on a Supreme Court decision. Tuition at public colleges and universities will be frozen for a least a year. The social safety net should escape further cuts.

Senate budget chair Andy Hill, a Republican, calls it a classic “compromise budget.” “Not everybody is exactly pleased with the way money was spent on both sides," he says. "That’s the beauty of the process.”

House budget chair Ross Hunter, a Democrat says the biggest compromise was in how the budget is funded, not where the money is spent. “The funding sources are different. The budget that we proposed used closing a number of corporate tax loopholes that we thought were outdated and not as useful.”

In the end, the final budget will eliminate just one tax exemption on residential phone service.

Republican Hill is pleased. “It’s easy to raise taxes. Some would say it’s intellectually lazy to do that. The hard work is actually sitting and really trying to reprioritize spending and focus where you want to go.”

Budget writers caught a break earlier this month with a positive quarterly revenue forecast. That extra money helped them bridge their differences over taxes.

Governor Inslee hopes to have the budget passed and on his desk before the weekend.

On the Web:

Governor Inslee's statement - Office of the Governor

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."